Psychologists say surge in school threats a ‘copycat effect’

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A phenomenon known as the “copycat effect” is prompting arrests and heightened security at schools across the United States, following the killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

Psychologists have been studying the pattern of threats and violence following high profile incidents since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. In the four weeks following the school shooting, 350 students in the U.S. were arrested for making threats against their schools.

In the Miami Valley Thursday, at least four students at different schools were arrested for threats.

Dr. Gregory Ramey, the executive director at Dayton Children’s Center for Pediatric Mental Health Resources, explained the uptick can be attributed to mass media attention and the events’ effects on vulnerable children and teens.

“What may be a tragedy to you and I and most other people is seen by them as an opportunity for attention or escape or to meet some other serious emotional need,” Dr. Ramey said.

The psychologist recommended parents monitor their children’s behavior, reactions and exposure to social media and news coverage of violent events. He said it’s an opportunity to start age-appropriate conversations and look for any signs of a child struggling with mental health issues.

“At least part of it is being able to identify these children early, not waiting, but getting them help,” he said.

Psychologists also explain the 24-hour news cycle could be contributing to so-called copycats seeking attention. The Colorado School Safety Resource Center said a trend of threats ebbs and flows with the coverage of events.

Dr. Ramey said for parents, maintaining an open line of communication is key to explain consequences, spot warning signs or to help ease concerns.

“Reach out, engage you child in conversation that’s wrapped in caring and love,” he said.Grab the FREE WDTN News App for iPhone or Android. Stay up to date with all the local news, weather and sports as well as live newscasts and events as they happen. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all the latest news, weather and sports.

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